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Water schooling for cross-country riders

Expert advice from Pippa Funnell on how to introduce a horse to water obstacles

Always have a lead horse handy for the first time a horse is ridden into water, because it is important to try and avoid a conflict.

A young horse cannot be expected to know that it is all right to go into water for the first time: at this stage, he doesn’t know the rider well enough to trust him or her, he doesn’t know how deep the water is or if the footing is safe.

To begin with walk the horse into the water if you can, keeping him quietly channelled between your leg and hand; if he won’t go in on his own, follow the lead horse in.

Spend some time walking him around in the water so that he realises there is nothing to be worried about.

Repeat the exercise, this time without a lead and then at trot.

Vary the direction you go in and out and introduce small jumps before and after the water.

Top tips for cross-country schooling

  • Always go cross-country schooling with someone on a more experienced horse who can give you a lead and thus avoid confrontation at hazards such as water and ditches.
  • Although arguments with a young horse are not a good idea, when cross-country schooling you must be prepared to make him do what is asked. Even if your horse is adamant that he won’t go into water or over a ditch, you should stay there and make him do so, even if it takes hours.
  • You might find that your youngster, faced with the wide open spaces, is quite bright, Make sure that you have a helper who can give you a good, clean leg up and if the horse feels as though he might rush forward, face him towards something solid, such as the side of a shed or a fence.
  • Make sure that your girth is tight enough and your stirrups are the right length before you get on. If your horse is lively you won’t be able to adjust them in the first few minutes you’re on his back

This is an extract from Training the Young Horse by Pippa Funnell and Kate Green, with photographs by Kit Houghton(published by David & Charles)

Read the full story in Horse & Hound (25 April), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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